DO WE NEED PRIOR EXPERIENCE OF HAVING SEEN LIVE OBJECTS BEING MANUFACTURED TO CONCLUDE THEY WERE DESIGNED?

A possible objection to the "Argument from Design" might go as follows: When people look at wristwatches, tables or monoliths, they are able to conclude, "This was designed" only because, in the past, they've actually seen such things being made. On the other hand, when people look at babies or potted plants, all that they can recall from experience is that these things seem to take on design by themselves, spontaneously. A person may have a vague feeling that design in babies and plants is, in truth, the work of a designer. However, because he lacks the experience of having seen these things actually being made, he is not sure. Therefore, according to this, a person's not recognizing a designer behind babies and plants does not necessarily stem from personal or social blocks which cause a malfunctioning in his normal perceptive powers. Rather, non-recognition stems from a lack of experience.

This distinction is philosophical. We find, however, that in the real world, scientists are unperturbed by this distinction. When a phenomenon justifies a conclusion, they will draw that conclusion even without having any prior knowledge or experience of the proposed "cause." Here are two examples:

Example #1: Sir Fred Hoyle's statement in BBC's "The Anthropic Principle": "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintendent has monkeyed with the physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars."

In Hoyle's mind, the level of design justifies the conclusion without having had prior knowledge of the existence of a designer. Rather, the existence of a designer is inferred by the method of "induction," as Denton has stated, "The inference to design is a purely a posteriori induction based on a ruthlessly consistent application of the logic of analogy" (Michael Denton, Evolution - A Theory in Crisis, Burnett Books, London ,1985, p. 342).

Example #2: One of the oldest and most prestigeous scientific associations is Great Britain's Royal Society. At the end of the 1970's, OMNI Magazine asked members of the Society to list the five most "sensational" scientific advances of the decade:




Schematic diagram of part of a DNA molecule

"The most frequently mentioned paper in the biological sciences was that by Fred Sanger and his colleagues at Cambridge, England, wherein they described the entire sequence of nucleotides, or 'words,' in the DNA of a virus, PhiX-174 ('Nature', Vol. 265, 1977, p. 687). This achievement marked the first time ever that the complete chemical 'blueprint' of a living organism had been unraveled and followed shortly after Dr. Sanger's group and a second team working under Dr. Walter Gilbert had improved methods for reading DNA sequences. An extremely simple life form, PhiX-174 proved to contain 5,375 words. Grouped into sentences -- genes -- they specify the composition of a virus particle when it replicates, and indeed they control all its functions... A perplexing revelation from this work was that the genes overlap. Like a telegram with no spacing, the coded message read entirely differently, depending upon whether one began with the first, second or third letter. The fact the three messages were contained within one seemed to some researchers artificial or contrived, prompting Drs. Hiromitsu Yokoo and Iairo Oshima to revise the theory, first suggested by Dr. Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel ('Icarus', Vol. 19, 1973, p. 341) that life on Earth began from organisms sent here billions of years ago by extra-terrestrial civilizations that decided to 'seed' other planets. The Japanese scientists suggested that the gene sequence PhiX-174 might contain messages, or signals, as yet uncoded. In their reasoning, such overlapping messages would be a highly economical way to send information through vast tracts of space" (OMNI Magazine, in an article entitled, "Future Curves: OMNI Surveys the Royal Society").

In other words, the most sensational biological discovery of the 70's was that DNA, the "chemical blueprint" of a live form, was so "contrived," i.e. it exhibited such a high level of design and complexity, scientists were forced to conclude that the DNA had to have been produced by intelligence. The design compelled an intuitive appreciation which led them to hypothesize the existence of a mysterious extraterrestrial civililzation. Here, again, we witness the same process of induction at work. The researchers had no prior knowledge that such an extraterrestrial civilization existed. The existence of this civilization is hypothesized by induction.

There is an important lesson here from Yokoo and Oshima. Neither researcher, nor any human being for that matter, could claim to have seen PhiX-174 actually being made. All anyone ever has seen is the final product -- the DNA itself. Clearly, however, not having seen the manufacturing process did not stand in the way of human perception that the live object under study was, in fact, "contrived" purposefully by intelligence. Not having experienced the manufacturing process did not stand as an obstacle to the "gut" intuitive reaction that the DNA was a design of a designer. Lack of experience did not matter. What is more, that the subject under study was alive did not matter either.

SEEDING

Since we have had occasion to mention the concept of "Seeding," we should like to discuss two major objections to this being possible. But first, let us reveal Crick and Orgel's true motives as confided to NYU Professor of Chemistry, Robert Shapiro (author of Origins - A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Bantam, 1987).

Shapiro writes that Crick and Orgel themselves brought up the entire idea of seeding only to "increase public awareness" and "awaken" people to the demise of the chemical soup idea. Crick himself confided this to Shapiro in a private interview, saying: "We thought of this theory, but we're not completely sold on it... The object is to give the intelligent person an idea of what the problem really is, and this is just a tag to hang it on... Everybody, as they say in the state of California, can relate to certain ideas, and things like coming on an unmanned rocket -- or even bacteria, they think they can relate to" (Origins, pp. 227-228).

The explanation of the origin of life by means of the chemical soup idea had become so entrenched that scientists who knew it was inadequate felt compelled to propose the alternative theory of seeding as a means of increasing public awareness. When Crick and Orgel put forth the seeding proposal to the scientific community, they did not believe in it themselves, and for good reason.

Objection #1: Seeding theory was initially proposed before "fine-tuning" -- the discovery that the laws and constants of physics, the "nuts and bolts" of the universe, all have to be "set" pretty much to the values that we find for them in order for atoms, stars, and life, to have come into existence. Since it is assumed that the Seeders represent a form of intelligent life, to give too much credit to them becomes a classic example of circular reasoning. This is one of two reasons that caused Hoyle to write that as his ideas developed "a monstrous spectre kept beckoning," meaning, the "seeder" could not have created the laws of physics. Rather, according to Hoyle, the ultimate source of life and of the fine-tuning in the universe has powers and intelligence which cannot be grasped even by the alleged seeder (see Evolution From Space, p. 148). Whatever or Whoever created "fine-tuning" has, by definition, to be outside the spacetime continuum.

Objection #2: The mathematical odds against chance and chemistry being responsible for life, Hoyle wrote, "are essentially just as unfaceable for a universal soup as for a terrestrial one" (Evolution From Space, p. 31). In other words, if Earth's chemical soup could not have generated life without the intervention of intelligence, neither could the chemical soup of the entire universe. Hoyle added: "No matter how large the environment one considers [the entire cosmos], life cannot have had a random beginning. Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the works of Shakespeare, for the practical reason that the whole observable universe is not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters, and certainly the waste paper baskets required for the deposition of all the wrong attempts. The very same is true for living material" (ibid. p. 148).

Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Harold C. Urey, likewise admitted: "All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel that it is too complex to have evolved anywhere"[meaning anywhere else in the universe; i.e. "seeding theory"] (interview in "Christian Science Monitor," January 4, 1962).

Hoyle's statement that the mathematical odds against chance and chemistry being responsible for life "are essentially just as unfaceable for a universal soup as for a terrestrial one" is not just a matter of opinion. In order to fully appreciate this, one has to see the mathematical calculations involved. Contemporary astronomy since Hubble tells us that the Milky Way has one hundred billion (10 to the 11th power) stars and the same number of other galaxies with the same number of stars. This calculation gives us a grand total of 10 to the 22nd power stars. Let us be super generous and assume that each one of these stars could have a planet suitable for life. (In actual fact, an estimate of one in a million stars having such a planet would also be very generous.) This increases the chance of life arising "somewhere in the universe" by a factor of 10 to the 22nd. In addition, the age of the universe could be up to three times that of the earth. So we have triple the time as well.

In Origins (Chapter 5, "The Odds") Shapiro summarizes all the various opinions regarding the chances of one bacterium coming into existence on Earth, assuming we already have all the necessary amino acids, and all that remains in to assemble them. On the low end, we have Hoyle's estimate of 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power. (Assuming this to be correct, adding 10 to the 22nd theoretical planets increases the odds to 1 in 10 to the 39,978th power, which is still not very encouraging.) On the other hand, Harold Morowitz, a Yale University physicist, estimates the chances of the above scenario taking place on earth as 1 in 10 to the 100th billionth power. This is the second reason Hoyle found even the "seeders" to be an unacceptable explanation. Shapiro goes further in his Chapter 7, "The Random Replicator." The absolutely lowest level of life would be a "simple" molecule capable of replicating itself. Shapiro shows that even if we vastly simplify the case from that of a bacterium to that of such a "simple" molecule, the "machinery" required is still too complex to entertain the possibility that it could come into existence randomly. See below Menu #6, "The Theory of Evolution," for details on the above two topics.

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