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Origin of life: not so hard after all?

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We have reported that the chances of life arising from non-life naturalistically are so low that ‘0’ is for all practical purposes the actual probability. Are such numbers too low? K.T. from Australia writes:

I hope you can respond to the attack that the number (and many other numbers) you used in one of the articles about the probability of a cell coming to being by chance (1058000) is (are) rejected on the grounds of error, according to R.C. Carrier’s 2004 journal article “The argument from biogenesis: Probabilities against a natural origin of life”

CMI’s Dr Don Batten responds:

Dear K.,

Thanks for making contact. It would help if you cited the article of ours that you are referring to. I know of no article on our website or in our publications that calculates the probability for the naturalistic origin of life as 1 in 1058000; it actually is far worse than that for the materialists. I have read Mr Carrier’s propaganda piece (what a waste of time that was!). It was hard not to get angry when reading it; it is so full of misinformation and smokescreens clearly designed to convince uninformed readers and to shore up the naturalistic ‘faith’ (atheism). It should be noted that the author, Richard Carrier, is a key player in the Infidels.org website, which has a ‘take-no-prisoners’ approach to promoting ‘metaphysical naturalism’ (i.e. atheism). He was editor-in-chief for some years. Furthermore, his training is in history, not science.

Carrier does not address the calculations we have made and the errors he claims do not apply to our calculations (he also misrepresents the arguments of Dembski, and Bradley and Thaxton so I can only assume that he does the same for those with whom I am not familiar).

Much of his ‘analysis’ applies to very old publications (none by us), presumably because if he addressed the arguments current in 2004 he would have much less to rabbit on about and much less to be able to confuse the unsuspecting reader with. I realize that Carrier’s article was published in 2004, but he does not address any of the material we published prior to that date (e.g. The Origin of Life: A Critique of Current Scientific Models was published in 1996 and clearly shows that the origin of life is not just a matter of getting a self-reproducing protein, which Carrier very deceptively (or possibly ignorantly, since he is an historian, not a scientist) claims and furthermore gives the impression that such a thing has been demonstrated to exist outside the cell environment).

Carrier makes many false claims: e.g. that homochiral amino acids occur naturally (i.e. from chemistry/physics) and that they are produced by supernovas (did someone sample a supernova?!). Both false claims; see the articles on homochirality on creation.com (use the search window). The problem has not been solved at all.

Nevertheless, we have made calculations that ignore all the special conditions required (such as homochirality) and it still shows that not even one average functional protein would ever form, let alone the hundreds required for a minimal self-reproducing cell (Carrier continually wildly understates the problem, trying to minimize the requirements to make it believable; this is not science but special pleading for the purpose of proselytizing for atheism.)

Carrier also continually confuses operational science and origins science in his introduction, which is rather odd, considering he is writing in a journal of philosophy and science. See ‘It’s not science (section: A valid distinction).

Carrier also claims that we cannot know how many experiments are possible. This is rubbish. We can put an upper limit on the number of experiments possible and make it really ridiculously large and still abiogenesis comes up way short. We can make all the assumptions in favour of abiogenesis and it still comes up so far short that only a died-in-the-wool atheist (“metaphysical naturalist” is the Infidels.org term) could possibly continue to believe it happened. There is such a calculation in Who created God?

Carrier uses bluff (smokescreens) and bluster to hoodwink readers into thinking he has addressed the issues and he has not addressed them, he has sidestepped them.

Carrier confuses entropy and configurational entropy and falsely claims that the entropy problem for evolution has been solved. Wrong! See: Some thermodynamics criticisms—and answers (#2).

Here is another article that briefly lists the problems for the naturalistic origin of life (it is not just a probability problem; quite of few of the issues are insurmountable): 15 loopholes in the evolutionary theory of the origin of life: Summary.

I hope I have covered enough for you to see that Mr Carrier has not been very accurate in this treatment of this subject. His article is without merit.

With kindest regards,

Don Batten

Published: 14 July 2013