When I was a younger man, just starting full-time work with a hot Internet start-up in the big city, my biggest interest was in the origin of life. I liked to listen to debates about it (e.g. – Walter Bradley versus Robert Shapiro, etc.) and lectures and interviews. Two of my favorite interviews are from the University of California series on Origins, featuring Charles Thaxton and Dean Kenyon.
I found the one with Charles Thaxton in miniature form on Youtube.
Charles Thaxton received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Iowa State University. He completed two post-doctoral programs, one in history of science at Harvard University and the second in the molecular biology laboratories of Brandeis University.
He has specialized in the origin of life and in science’s relationship with Christianity through history.
He is co-author of The Mystery of Life’s Origin and also The Soul of Science. He is Academic Editor of the high school biology book Of Pandas and People. He has contributed significant chapters to the books God and Culture and The Creation Hypothesis.
He has published technical articles in Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, Journal of Scientific Instruments, and Journal of Cell Biology.
He has lectured widely in American universities including Princeton University, Yale University, University of Michigan, University of Delaware, Rice University, Texas Universtiy, Johns Hopkins University, Vanderbilt University, and Harvard Law School.
He has lectured outside the country at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science, the Russian Academy of Science, and in various universities in Mongolia, Romania, Poland, Hungary, and the former Czechoslovakia.
He has held appointments at Slovak Technical University in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, the Biomathematical Institute in Craiova, Romania, and at Charles University in Prague, where he was a Templeton scholar in the department of natural sciences.
He is a member of American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Fellow of American Institute of Chemistry, American Scientific Affiliation, and Discovery Institute.
He and his wife Carole homeschooled two sons, both of whom are college graduates. He is a survivor of two bouts of cancer, which left him with one leg and one lung. He and his wife reside near Atlanta, Georgia, where they teach homeschooled teens at Konos Academy. He also is writing two books, punctuated by speaking stints.
Here’s the lecture I liked so much featuring Charles Thaxton:
And here are the questions:
1. How did you first get interested in the origin of life?
2. How did you come to write The Mystery of Life’s Origin with Walter Bradley and Roger Olsen?
3. Was there an advantage to having the three of you collaborate on the project?
4. What is the primary argument of your book, The Mystery of Life’s Origin?
5. Have scientists come close to developing a plausible naturalistic explanation to the origin of life or do you still consider the origin of life to be a mystery?
6. Do you see a particular irony in the timing of Stanley Miller’s experiments and the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick?
7. How does the emergence of modern genetics tie in with the Darwinian scenario of life going from simple to complex?
8. What are the major problems with origin of life simulation experiments?
9. Isn’t it rather impressive that amino acids were produced in the Miller experiments?
10. How close is the development of amino acids to the threshold of life?
11. What are the steps involved in producing proteins from amino acids?
12. Why are amino acids isolated during this process?
13. How can the investigator affect the outcome of a simulation experiment?
14. How did you evaluate the different chemical evolution experiments?
15. Are the initial conditions in the simulation experiments plausible?
16. What did the earth’s early atmosphere contain?
17. Will the simulation experiments work with this atmosphere?
18. There seems to be an underlying assumption that the origin of life resulted without any intelligent input whatsoever yet the simulation experiments appear to rely upon intelligent guidance. Could you comment on this irony?
19. Are there any natural processes that would have filtered out destructive ultraviolet light?
20. What additional steps beyond creating amino acids would be required to develop life?
21. What is so difficult about making proteins or nucleic acids?
22. In addition to the energy problem in protein synthesis isn’t there a sequencing problem?
23. Are DNA sequences analogous to a written language?
24. Has Hubert Yockey made similar claims?
25. In The Mystery of Life’s Origin you refer to order, randomness, and specified complexity. Could you give us an overview of these concepts?
26. What do you think the presence of specified complexity in a living system indicates about its origin?
27. In inferring the necessity of intelligence to produce life haven’t you ventured from the realm of science to religion?
28. Could you summarize the reasons why you believe intelligence was involved in the origin of life?
29. What are the major objections to your current point of view?
30. How was The Mystery of Life’s Origin received by the scientific community?
31. What was Dean Kenyon’s response to your critiques of his book, Biochemical Predestination?
32. What was Dean Kenyon’s response to The Mystery of Life’s Origin?
33. Were you a bit apprehensive about meeting Kenyon after writing a book which was quite critical of his views in Biochemical Predestination?
34. Are self-organizational theories plausible?
35. Would you comment on the work done by Prigogine and Eigen?
36. What is your assessment of RNA scenarios?
37. What other problems do you see with an RNA world?
This is an argument you never hear in William Lane Craig debates, but it’s worth knowing well.